Enjoy making a mess! Jain McKay on how art workshops can be liberating…

The RBSA’s tranquil exhibition spaces are given over to workshops on a regular basis, and there’s a completely different feel to the Gallery when people are learning and having fun…

Art workshops don’t have to be formal, says artist and tutor Jain McKay. In fact, the more mess you make the better!

Jain’s approach is to free people of their inhibitions, and to get you channelling your creative energy.


‘A lot of people are scared of making that first mark, of getting started. They want their work to be perfect. I help them to find a way in, to work in the skills but keep the energy.’

‘I work from chaos to order,’ she adds. ‘We start by making a mess and gradually through the workshop the process becomes more and more refined. Something recognisable emerges, but it retains the energy of the chaos.’

Jain is a respected contemporary artist and an experienced tutor who has a fascination with internal narratives and human behaviour. This is reflected in her portraiture. She believes every portrait is a landscape, and every landscape a portrait.


‘When you are working on a portrait, you are looking at a surface. A face is like the land and in the process of making art, you travel over it and all its shapes and hills and contours.

‘Landscapes are often about the people who use them, or how humans relate to them. And so you get this interesting crossover.’

Jain’s work exudes the energy she likes to create in her mixed media workshops, and she’s keen to welcome experienced artists alongside those new to art.

‘I start by getting people free and playing – it’s all about seeing what the materials do on their own. They will do the work for you and once you have momentum, you add to it.


‘I like to work with people who are willing to fail in order to be good. Sometimes artists can be too strict on themselves. They want to take their skills to another level, but in doing so many have lots of hang ups, or be stuck in quite a rigid way of working. And so the trained artist may be able to draw precisely, but their work can be in danger of lacking energy. And if you aren’t trained, you may have the energy but lack the skills… I try to help everyone, whatever their level of experience.’

Jain is giving a workshop on 22 February at the RBSA and is keen to emphasise that what you learn can be taken home – not just in terms of work produced on the day, but the skills you pick up, too.

‘It’s a process you can repeat when you are back at home. Just follow that process and hopefully you can keep going.

‘I get a lot of artists and people new to art who are very happy with the fact they have made something vibrant.’

Book a place on a Winter Workshop!

If you’ve always wanted to take an art class, we may have just what you’re looking for. Our small, friendly classes are led by working artists who are happy to teach all abilities.

The current programme of RBSA Winter Workshops can be viewed in full here… and we have a ground floor shop which stocks art kits, sketchbooks and notebooks so that you can continue at home.

art kits

Call the Gallery on 0121 236 4353 if you have any questions about our classes. And book soon! Some are nearly sold out.

Banner image: Artificial Intelligence Model (detail)

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